Federal prosecutors on Monday charged a U.S. Army soldier with plotting to attack his own military unit abroad by sending sensitive details about the unit to a neo-Nazi group, in the hopes of starting a “10-year war” in the Middle East.
Ethan Phelan Melzer, a 22-year-old who forged ties with neo-Nazis online, plotted online with someone he believed was connected to radical Islamist groups to attack his unit ahead of his deployment in Turkey.
Melzer is charged with conspiring and attempting to murder Americans and U.S. military service members, providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to murder and maim in an undisclosed foreign country.
It described Melzer as “the enemy within,” who allegedly attempted “to orchestrate a murderous ambush on his own unit,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss for the Southern District of New York.
While stationed in Vincenza, Italy, Melzer passed details about his unit’s movements to an FBI informant. Going by the username “Etil Reggad,” Melzer was led to believe the informant had ties to jihadists.
Online, he mingled with neo-Nazi and satanist Order of the Nine Angles (O9A) in chatrooms. Melzer even shared the planned location in Turkey and details of their weapons and equipment.
He said that his unit would easily be overcome, the indictment revealed and was prepared to die himself in a “jihadist” attack.
“I would’ve died successfully,” the indictment alleges Melzer told the informant, as “another 10-year in the Middle East would definitely leave a mark.”
The indictment charges Melzer on six counts of murder and providing material support to terrorist groups.
Melzer, who originally hails from Louisville, Kentucky, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2018 and joined O9A in 2019.
He also divulged sensitive information on military movements in a related group called the “Rapewaffen Division,” which the DOJ claimed was “for the purpose of facilitating an attack on the unit.”
The DOJ also released a statement, saying, “Melzer declared himself to be a traitor against the United States, and described his own conduct as tantamount to treason.”
If convicted, the punishment could be up to life imprisonment.